Posts tagged ‘James’

May 13, 2014

843 Acres: When Predators and Prey Live Together

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 11-12 (txt | aud, 4:11 min)
Jam 5 (txt | aud, 2:57 min)
Highlighted: Is 11:6-9

The Other: Ernest Crawley calls our inborn aggression to ethnic (and other) conflicts a “taboo of personal isolation.” Sigmund Freud says that it stems from our “narcissism of minor differences”. We compare ourselves to one another, constantly feuding and ridiculing each other in our minds. In an effort to set ourselves apart as unique or righteous, we focus on our “details of differentiation”. Is there any hope for our miserable self-centeredness?

Holy City: Isaiah pictures the Holy City as a place where those now at war—even predators and prey—will be at peace. He writes, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” [1]

Shalom: In When the Kings Come Marching In, Richard Mouw writes, “In the glorious future, the Lord will eliminate conflict between animals, and between animals and human beings. Former predators will live peacefully with their former prey. Little children will have nothing to fear from beasts or snakes. The coming of the peace, the shalom, of the Lord has far-reaching implications. The fullness of the knowledge of the Lord will banish all hostility and enmity from the good creation. The curse of sin will be lifted from the earth, and God’s righteousness will heal all that was touched by it. Even relationships between animals will be transformed.”

Prayer: Lord, When we pray, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” the type of peace for which we long is the type that puts down the sharp sword and closes the growling mouth. And we want it to start with us. Mortify our narcissism that seeks to magnify our differences. Increase our knowledge of you so that we can put down our self-righteousness and pursue self-forgetfulness in Christ. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Isaiah 11:6-9 ESV

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May 12, 2014

843 Acres: Alibaba, IPO, and Unpredictability

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 10:5-34 (txt | aud, 4:42 min)
Jam 4 (txt | aud, 2:12 min)
Highlighted: Jam 4:13-16

Alibaba: The Alibaba Group is the biggest e-commerce company in China and, by some measures, the world. Last year, transactions on its sites totaled $240 billion—more than eBay and Amazon.com combined. When it goes public, it is expected to be the largest technology stock offering in history. [1] No matter how well (or not well) Alibaba’s IPO does, though, it will say in its annual reports what every other publicly traded company says: “Our stock price may fluctuate based on factors beyond our control.” Companies are highly attuned to their unpredictability. Are we?

Control: James gives a warning about business forecasting: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do now know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” [2] His concern, though, is not with planning; it is with imagining that we are in control of what happens.

Unpredictability: “Instead, you ought to say,” he continues, “‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” [3] We are called to use wisely our resources, abilities, connections, and time, but we are not in control of the outcomes. In fact, even more than publicly traded companies, we ought to be aware of this. For we not only have to respond, re-assess, adapt, and adjust to external conditions, we also have to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading: “If the Lord wills …”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often are arrogant in our planning. We presume to be in control of our lives. Yet we do not know what will happen in the next five minutes. Forgive us, Lord, and remind us that every breath is a gift from you. Our hearts beat at your command. Our workplaces function under your sovereignty. Therefore, may we not boast in our hearts. Make us humble stewards of the lives you have given to us and that you sustain in us. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] http://projects.wsj.com/alibaba/ | [2] James 4:13-14 ESV |[3] James 4:14-16

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May 9, 2014

843 Acres: Rooted and Faithful, Not Tossed and Unstable

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 7 (txt | aud, 3:52 min)
Jam 1 (txt | aud, 3:13 min)
Highlighted: Jam 1:9-11

Connect: Earlier this week, we saw that faith is the conviction of things “not seen” and that such faith—faith that can see our “better and abiding possession”—is able to “joyfully” accept property loss. We also saw that in our cities, there is are drastic wealth and power disparities and that God has called us to be his agents of equity. How do these two ideas—our faith in our unseen future glory and our agency as models of his equity in our cities—connect?

Trust: James begins with the idea that we can trust God to provide for us. [1] This is one of the most important ways that our faith has feet on the ground. For when we doubt that he will provide what we need, we become “tossed by the wind” and “unstable” in all our ways, James says. [2] We cannot work for the benefit of others nor “receive [for ourselves] anything from the Lord.” [3] When it comes to wealth, James writes, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass, he will pass away … in the midst of his pursuits.” [4] In other words, if we are rich, we must not think that our wealth is due to our own efforts and, if we are poor, we must not think our poverty is due to God’s disfavor.

Generosity: The church community is one means that God uses to dignify the poor. “His promise to provide for the poor,” writes the Theology of Work Project, “is fulfilled—in part—by the generosity of his people, and their generosity is a direct result of God’s generosity to them … This affirms both that God is the ultimate source of provision and that believers are responsible to do all they can to bring God’s provision to those in need.”

Prayer: Lord, How are you calling us to be your agents of provision in the world—as givers who share resources, as entrepreneurs who offer gainful employment, etc.? As we pray about where you might be calling us to risk for the sake of equity in our cities, increase our faith in what is unseen so that we may know and trust that you will provide for us. For we do not want to be tossed or unstable people, but rooted and faithful followers of Jesus. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, May 10:  Is 8:1-9:7 (txt | aud, 4:53 min) & Jam 2 (txt | aud, 2:57 min)
Sunday, May 11: Is 9:8-10:4 (txt | aud, 2:48 min) & Jam 3 (txt | aud, 2:16 min)

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Footnotes

[1] James 1:5-6 | [2] James 1:8 | [3] James 1:7 | [4] James 1:9-11 ESV

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November 22, 2013

843 Acres: Let Your Requests Be Made Known to God

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: 1 Chr 17 (text | audio, 4:16 min)
Jam 4 (text | audio, 2:12 min)
Highlighted: Jam 4:2

Pray: It is astounding that the omniscient and omnipotent Lord and Creator of the universe wants and asks his people to pray. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” [1] James wrote, “You do not have because you do not ask.” [2] Why does God repeatedly remind us to pray? Martin Luther once said:

“He knows that we are timid and shy, that we feel unworthy and unfit to present our needs to God. We feel the needs, but we cannot express them. We think that God is so great and we are so tiny that we do not dare to pray … That is why Christ wants to lure us away from such timid thoughts, to remove our doubts, and to have us go ahead confidently and boldly. Though I am unworthy, I am still his creature; and since he has made me worthy of being his creature, I am also worthy of receiving what he has promised and so generously offered to me. In other words, if I am unworthy, he and his promise are not unworthy. You can venture this vigorously and trustfully, you can put it in his lap joyfully and confidently.” [3]

How: How then do we pray? Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” [4] First, we pray “in everything”—that is, we stay in a mindset of prayer, not just in crises. [5]Second, we pray by “supplication”—that is, by asking for help. Third, we pray “with thanksgiving”—that is, we make requests with contended hearts that thank God for whatever he chooses to wisely and lovingly give us. What is the result of this type of prayer? Paul continued, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [6]

Prayer: Lord, We care about having your peace in our hearts and minds because we struggle with anxiety. Since your peace comes through our prayer, awaken our love for you so that we want to commune with you “in everything” by “supplication” and “with thanksgiving.” Let it not be said of us, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, November 23: 1 Chr 18 (text | audio, 2:40 min) & Jam 5 (text | audio, 2:57 min)
Sunday, November 24: 1 Chr 19-20 (text | audio, 3:16 min) & 1 Ptr 1 (text | audio, 3:48 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 7:7 ESV | [2] James 4:2 ESV | [3] The Sermon on the Mount, trans. Jaroslave Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works [Concordia, 1956], p. 234. | [4] Philippians 4:6 ESV | [5] See 1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 6:9 | [6] Philippians 4:7 ESV

November 21, 2013

843 Acres: Throwback Thursday (Lewis): A Fable About a Very Likely Misconception

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: 1 Chr 16 (text | audio, 4:57 min)
Jam 3 (text | audio, 2:16 min)
Highlighted: 1 Chr 16:1 

1 Chronicles 16:1 

The ark was the physical manifestation of the Lord’s presence with his people. Here, David places it in a tent. In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon moves it into the temple and asks in astonishment, “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?” Yes, but in a way that made the ark look like a mere pencil drawing.

And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God.

C.S. Lewis. Transposition. (an excerpt)

Let us picture a woman thrown in a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating …

This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance, she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it very largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and waves on a beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon.

At times he succeeds. On the whole he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two, they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception. ‘But,’ she gasps, ‘you didn’t think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?’ ‘What?’ says the boy. ‘No pencil marks there?’

And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition … The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother’s pictures. In reality, it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.

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November 20, 2013

843 Acres: Salvation By Faith Alone?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: 1 Chr 15 (text | audio, 4:02 min)
Jms 2 (text | audio, 2:57 min)
Highlighted: Jms 2:17, 19, 24 

Knowledge: It is easy to hear a sermon or read a book and think that, because we have understood what the minister or author has said, we have grown closer to God. After all, knowledge and understanding are essential parts of the Christian faith and even Paul mourned for those with “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” [1] Belief in God, however, is more than intellectual assent. As James writes, “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” [2] In other words, the demons know that Jesus is Lord, but their knowledge does not lead to trust. Their belief does not change how they live.

Action: Christian faith is more than cognitive belief that the person of Jesus exists. It is a deep and abiding trust that clings to and relies upon Jesus as Lord. Believers are those who treasure God and seek to live out his word. Thus, the point of hearing the word is not simply to know it; the point of hearing is to do it. [3]As James writes, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead … A person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” [4]

Reconciliation: Yet Paul says that we are justified by faith alone, not works. [5] Is James contradicting Paul? No. James is showing what true, justifying faith looks like. Even Paul knows that his message of “salvation by faith alone” is subject to abuse and, therefore, writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” [6] In other words, “We are saved by faith alone, but never a faith that remains alone,” as Tim Keller has put it. [7] That is saving and justifying faith—a faith that is accompanied by actions or, as Paul says, “a faith working through love.” [8]

Prayer: Lord, We praise you for you did not just say that you were love; you came in the person of Jesus to show that you were love. Therefore, we praise you for refining our faith, testing it to make sure that it is justifying and saving faith. Make us doers of the word, not hearers only. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Romans 10:1-4 ESV | [2] James 2:19 ESV | [3] James 1:22 ESV | [4] James 2:17, 24 ESV | [5] See Romans 4:1-12Ephesians 2:1-10. | [6] Romans 6:1-2 ESV | [7] Tim said this at the marriage conference at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (3/31/12). Similarly, in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, R.C. Sproul writes, “Though our good works add no merit to our faith before God, and though the sole condition of our justification is our faith in Christ, if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.’ True justification always results in the process of sanctification. If there is justification, sanctification will inevitably follow. If sanctification does not follow, it is certain that justification depends or rests upon sanctification. Justification depends on true faith, which in turn will inevitably lead to works of obedience. When James declared that faith without works is dead, he asserted that such ‘faith’ cannot justify anyone because it is not alive. Living faith produces good works, but these good works are not the basis for justification. Only the merit achieved by Jesus Christ can justify the sinner.” Chapter: “Faith and Works”. Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1992, p. 191 | [8] See Gal. 5:6 ESV

November 19, 2013

843 Acres: Tuesday Tweetables: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: 1 Chr 13-14 (text | audio, 4:19 min)
Jms 1 (text | audio, 3:13 min)
Highlighted: Jms 1:2-3

Discerning Brokenness

In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption. @timkellernyc

No matter what precautions we take … how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy … something will inevitably ruin it. @timkellernyc

Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. @timkellernyc

Imagining Redemption

Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Jms1

Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy. @timkellernyc

Suffering is actually at the heart of the Christian story. @timkellernyc #Jesus #suffering

Praying ACTS 

Lord, We #adore you for walking with us through pain and suffering and, in fact, for experiencing the ultimate suffering for us.

We #confess that, in suffering, we often find ourselves wishing the pain would end as soon as possible rather than seeking your hand in it.

We give you #thanks for being for us and for being with us. For you have said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

We offer you our #supplications, asking you to empower us in the midst of our sorrows to taste the coming joy of your kingdom. Amen.

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[Note: All @timkellernyc quotations taken from Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering. See Joni Eareckson Tada's review: here.]

May 11, 2012

On Connection, Conversation and Community

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: James 3:17
Full Text: Isaiah 9:8-10:4; James 3

Connection | In the New York Times, professor Sherry Turkle recently suggested that modern technology is creating a culture that’s satisfied with “the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship” [1]. She wrote, “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring.” After speaking with a teenager who’d rather talk about dating with someone online than with his dad and an elderly woman who was comforted by talking with a robot about the loss of her child, Turkle said, “We have confused conversation with connection … Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?”

Community | As we have seen this week, God is preparing us for glory, where all of our “outlandish expectations” will be met in the fullness of His holy presence [2]. Yet He is not preparing us to go alone; He is preparing us as a people, the church. In James, we see that religion is not a private matter. Our faith works itself out in how we treat one another [3]. How can we know what attitudes of the heart are from God? James writes, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” [4].

Conversation | Yes, our relationships will be messy and demanding. We will hurt one another and we will be hurt by one another – intentionally and unintentionally. When that inevitably happens, however, we have a choice – either say, “I am hurt; I need to update my status and keep away from others,” or, “I am hurt; I need to forgive and pursue the peace of God that seeks unity.” Let us not be too busy with communication that we don’t have time for conversation and community for, as Turkle said, “It is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.”

Prayer | Lord, We long for authentic community that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Let us be messy and forgiving. Let us put the love and glory of Christ on display in our lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Sherry Turkle. “The Flight from Conversation.” The New York Times. 21 April 2012.  |  [2] See 843 Acres. On Outlandish Expectations and Strong Senses of Entitlement (7 May 2012). On Coming Into the Presence of the Lord (8 May 2012). On Being Made Durable for Living and Suited for Glory (9 May 2012). On the Difference Between Demon Belief and Christian Belief (10 May 2012).  |  [3] e.g., see James 3:10 (James writes that we should not speak ill to or about one another), James 3:16 (have selfish ambition or bitter jealousy in our hearts). See also Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 435). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. “The Message of James: A Faith that Works (Myth #3: Religion Is a Private Matter.”)  |  [4] James 3:17 ESV

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May 10, 2012

On the Difference Between Demon Belief and Christian Belief

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: James 2:17, 24
Full Text: Isaiah 8:1-9:7; James 2

Knowledge | It’s easy to hear a sermon or read a book and think that, because we have understood what the minister has said or what the author has written, we have grown closer to God [1]. After all, knowledge and understanding are essential parts of the Christian faith and even Paul mourned for those with “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” [2]. Belief in God, however, is more than an intellectual assent. As James writes, “Even the demons believe – and shudder!” [3] In other words, the demons know that Jesus is Lord, but their knowledge doesn’t lead to repentance. Their belief doesn’t change how they live.

Action | Christian faith is more than a cognitive belief that the person of Jesus exists. It is a deep and abiding trust that clings to and relies upon Jesus as Lord. Believers are those who treasure God and seek to live out His Word. Thus, the point of hearing the Word is not simply to know it; the point of hearing is to do it [4]. As James writes, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead … A person is justified by works and not by faith alone” [5].

Reconciliation | Yet Paul says that we are justified by faith alone, not works [6]. Is James contradicting Paul? No. James is showing what justifying faith looks like [7]. Even Paul knows that his message of “salvation by faith alone” is subject to abuse and, therefore, he writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” [8] In other words, “We’re saved by faith alone, but never a faith that remains alone,” as Tim Keller has put it [9]. That is saving and justifying faith – a faith that is accompanied by actions or, as Paul says, “a faith working through love” [10].

Prayer | Lord, We praise you because you did not just say that you were love [11]; you came in the person of Jesus Christ to show your steadfast and abounding love to us. Therefore, we praise you for refining our faith, testing it to make sure that it is justifying and saving faith, as we saw yesterday [12]. Make us be doers of the Word, not hearers only. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 431). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [2] See Romans 10:1-4 ESV  |  [3] James 2:19 ESV  |  [4] James 1:22 ESV  |  [5] James 2:17, 24 ESV  |  [6] See Romans 4:1-12; Ephesians 2:1-10.  |  [7] For additional reflection on reconciling the statements of James and Paul, see John Piper, “Does James Contradict Paul?” 8 August 1999 (sermon).  |  [8] Romans 6:1-2 ESV  |  [9] Tim said this at the recent marriage conference at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (3/31/12). Similarly, in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, R.C. Sproul writes, “Though our good works add no merit to our faith before God, and though the sole condition of our justification is our faith in Christ, if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.’ True justification always results in the process of sanctification. If there is justification, sanctification will inevitably follow. If sanctification does not follow, it is certain that justification depends or rests upon sanctification. Justification depends on true faith, which in turn will inevitably lead to works of obedience. When James declared that faith without works is dead, he asserted that such ‘faith’ cannot justify anyone because it is not alive. Living faith produces good works, but these good works are not the basis for justification. Only the merit achieved by Jesus Christ can justify the sinner.” Chapter: “Faith and Works”. Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1992, p. 191  |  [10] See Gal. 5:6 ESV  |  [11] See 1 John 4:8  |  [12] 843 Acres. “On Being Made Durable for Living and Suited for Glory.” 9 May 2012.

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May 9, 2012

On Being Made Durable for Living and Suited for Glory

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: James 1:22
Full Text: Isaiah 7; James 1

NPD | Two key steps in new product development (NPD) are idea generation and idea screening. In idea generation, tons of ideas – even bad ideas – are encouraged [1]. As David Kelley, founder of IDEO, has said, “Let their ideas fly; let them achieve what [Stanford psychologist Albert] Bandura calls self-efficacy” [2]. In idea screening, however, most of those ideas are tossed out. They get screened for things like feasibility, market attractiveness and scalability. They get weeded out by testing.

Testing | We go through a similar process with God. We begin with lots of ideas about how to live, but most of them are selfish and ungodly. As God has said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” [3]. This is why He refines us – to make us better products, more durable for living and more suited for glory. After all, as we saw yesterday [4], He is preparing us to enjoy His holiness. As James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” [5].

Cornered | How do trials test our faith and produce steadfastness? Consider Israel. God promised to rescue Israel from Egypt and bring them into the Promised Land. In the end, He did. But He did something between His promise-making and His promise-keeping; He tested their faith. He led them to a place where they were cornered – mountains on both sides, Pharaoh’s army behind them, and the Red Sea before them. Where would they go? They had to depend on God for salvation. He parted the sea and drowned the army!

Truth | Jesus said that the truth will set us free [6] and the truth is that we are entirely and utterly dependent on God [7]. The more we know that, the freer we are. Yet our knowing that often takes us through trials that wean us from our self-reliance so that our faith in Him deepens. In the end, the more refined our faith, the more clearly we see and reflect His beauty and worth.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that we are we are fragile, weak and vulnerable. Yet you are refining us so that we are being made more durable for living and suited for glory. Therefore, we count it all joy when we meet trials for we know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Linda Tischler. “Six Surefire Ways to Kill a Brainstorm.” Fast Company. 28 February 2001.  |  [2] TEDBlog. “Building creative confidence: David Kelley at TED2012.” 1 March 2012.  |  [3] Isaiah 55:8 ESV  |  [4] 843 Acres. “On Coming into the Presence of the Lord.” 8 May 2012.  |  [5] James 1:2 ESV  |  [6] John 8:32 ESV  |  [7] See John 5:19-29 (noting that not even Jesus could do anything of his own accord)

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